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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Cash’

The exciting part of free agency is now finished.  I guess that’s what happens when you move up every single important offseason deadline.  Cliff Lee is officially off the market as well.  But he didn’t sign with the Rangers.  He didn’t even sign with the Yankees.  He signed with the Phillies.  They made a late bid on Monday night and he took it.  Five years and one hundred million dollars.

You read right.  The Yankees offered him seven years for 142 million, and he turned it down.  He turned down more years and more money to go back to Philly.  Both deals pay him roughly the same amount per season, but it’s a big decision to turn down that much security.  A reasonable and rational one in this case, in my opinion, since it means he’s not going to New York.  The man has scruples.

So, to review, we now have Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and the Yankees do not have Cliff Lee.  I repeat: the New York Yankees do not have Cliff Lee! Said another way, Cliff Lee just dropped the New York Yankees like nobody’s business and basically showed them that, no, not everything in life can be bought.  The shift in the balance of power in the AL East is now complete.  Order has been restored in the universe.  We are back on top, and there’s nothing New York can do about it.  As far as the Phillies are concerned, we’ll deal with them in Interleague and the World Series, if they get there.  Keep in mind that they’re beatable.  Their rotation is great, but so is ours.  The only problem is that there are lots of question marks attached to ours and less attached to theirs.  But if those question marks yield positive answers this season, we’ll be fine.  Especially when you consider the fact that our lineup is packed with lefties, so right-handed pitching stands no chance.  We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Meanwhile, life is great!

Life is so great that one of the hot debate topics in Red Sox Nation these days is who will lead off, Crawford or Ellsbury? Just think about that for a second.  This is a question that we were asking in our dreams not too long ago.  This is a question that managers of All-Star teams were asking themselves not too long ago.  And now this is a question that our manager gets to ask himself on a daily basis.  That’s how great life is.  Because, when you put this in perspective, you realize that choosing between Ellsbury and Crawford for the leadoff spot is not a problem.  Choosing between Hall and McDonald and Patterson and Cash and Nava for every single lineup spot, day in and day out, is a problem.  And in answer to that question, I think Ellsbury has to lead off.  Pedroia will bat second, and Crawford will bat third.  Tito is saying now that Ellsbury will probably lead off, Crawford will bat either second or third, and Pedroia will bat wherever Crawford doesn’t bat, but those three will take the first three spots.  Ultimately, though, I assume Tito will separate the two lefties with the righty to confound opposing pitching.

The Yankees ended up locking Russell Martin; they agreed to terms with him on a one-year deal.

On to the bullpen, which is the only part of our baseball lives that wasn’t so great.  We signed Lenny DiNardo to a one-year minor league split deal.  Welcome back.  I should mention that his best season to date occurred under the tutelage of one Curt Young.  We signed Matt Albers to a one-year deal.  We also signed Dan Wheeler to a one-year deal.  But the highlight of this week’s bullpen wheeling and dealing is undoubtedly Bobby Jenks, formerly the closer for the White Sox who was non-tendered.  Jenks has agreed to a two-year deal in principle.  He didn’t have a great season last year, so we probably won’t have to deal with any competition between him and Paps for the position of closer.  Paps didn’t have a great year last year either, but his bad year was better than Jenks’s bad year.  But Jenks is awesome – his fastball is red-hot, and he throws a lot of strikes – with him on board, our bullpen can go straight to the top again.

Jenks is four years younger than Paps, and he makes our bullpen one of the hardest-throwing in the Major Leagues.  But heat isn’t everything; it’ll give you a lot of strikeouts but doesn’t guarantee you the save.  Consider this, though: baseball operations has wanted some sort of variation in the late innings, because before this deal we had Bard and Paps, so hitters were guaranteed fastball after fastball after fastball.  Jenks is a fastball pitcher, so the change of pace could come from Paps.  Paps is obviously a power pitcher, but his splitter and slider, on which he worked really hard last year, are now excellent, yielding .190 and .171 opposing batting averages, respectively.  So Jenks could get him to rely less on his fastball and throw more of those.  Obviously, his fastball is still amazing, but this would make him more versatile.  And more battle-ready, since now he probably won’t see action besides the ninth or in consecutive games.  So Jenks might actually make Paps more effective.

That, in turn, could have significant ramifications for next year’s offseason, when Paps becomes a free agent.  If he mounts a stellar campaign this year, he’ll be in a position to demand a stellar amount of cash.  But Heath Bell will also be a free agent at that time, and it’s unclear how well Paps will be able to compete with him in the market.  So this deal with Jenks gives us a lot of options and a lot of leverage for negotiations.  Bell will probably steal the show, and Paps would be demoted to a backup interest for most teams.  And let’s not forget the possibility that we could just decide to make Jenks the set-up man and Bard the closer, something of which I am sure Paps is well aware.  Honestly, I hope that doesn’t happen.  I hope we retain Paps, and I suspect we will, but there’s no way to know.  The bottom line for now is this: Jenks, Bard, Paps.  Done.  Game over.

Last but not least, the player to be named later in the Gonzalez deal is Eric Patterson.  He had some big heroics in Fenway, and he’ll be missed.

Red Sox Nation sends its condolences to the family of Walt Dropo, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1950 with us, who passed away on Friday.  He beat out Whitey Ford for the award.  He was one of our greatest of that era.  And he will be missed.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Sabres by a goal.  Ryder scored a power play goal to put us on top in the third period, but Drew Stafford put the finishing touches on a hat trick in the third as well, and Buffalo won out.  We also suffered a brutal loss to the Habs by a goal.  The final score was 3-4.  It was crushing.  And then we turned around and crushed the Caps.  Barely.  The final score was 3-2.  Thomas made twenty-five saves in the third period alone; if it weren’t for him, I’m not convinced we would have picked up the W, because that third period was awful.  And Tom Brady delivered a sound thrashing to Chicago’s pass defense, yielding a final score of 36-7.  It was excellent.

I’ll be taking a break for about a week.  I think it’s safe to say that most of the big name wheeling and dealing’s been done.  But you never know.  Theo will probably use this week to finalize the bullpen situation and take care of any other necessary business.  But at this point, I think we’re set!

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The first game of the series was finally rained out on Friday after a prolonged delay.  So we had a doubleheader yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that long delay on Friday had something to do with the fact that the Yankees did not want to have to play a doubleheader when they’re trying to keep themselves in top form for the postseason.  Yet another confirmation that Red Sox Nation has friends in very high places.

The first game was preceded by Thanks, Mike Night, a ceremony honoring Mikey Lowell, one of the classiest men the game has ever seen, ever.  Standing ovations, signs, a message printed on the Green Monster.  He had his family, his current and former teammates, and the Red Sox brass on hand.  He received a cooler of stone crabs from the Marlins, a hundred-thousand-dollar check from the Sox to his foundation, his very own third base from the field, and a number twenty-five Fenway seat.  And this is what he had to say to us:

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words to kind of explain the emotions I’ve felt over the last five years with respect to the support and the positive responses I’ve gotten from Red Sox fans.  I think it’s your passion and your knowledge for baseball that I’ll truly miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  So I just want to thank God for allowing me the privilege and the opportunity to wear this jersey, to play in this ballpark, to represent the city of Boston and to share so many memories with all of you.  Thank you very much.

He really appreciated his time here.  He did a lot for us, and we’ll never forget that.  He wanted a home run, but he was perfectly content to end it with a base hit and tip his cap on his own terms, as Tito said.  And that’s exactly what he did.  At thirty-six years old, he retires with a .278 career batting average, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 1,601 games played.  And from winning the 2007 World Series MVP Award to not complaining when he was demoted to the bench, he never complained.  We’ll miss you, buddy.

When the game did get underway, it was Wake with the ball.  Wake will most likely retire after next season.  Those are two class acts right there.  The only thing that both Lowell and Wakefield have ever done is do whatever was asked of them for this team, no matter what it was or how different it was from their expectations of what their roles would be like.  Wake’s retirement is going to be hard to take.  It seems like he’s been here forever, and it seemed like he would never leave.

But we’ll worry about that next year.  In the present, he did not pitch well at all.  He only lasted five innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits, he walked three, and he struck out six.  He threw ninety-four pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.  All three of his pitches – the knuckleball, curveball, and fastball – were effectively thrown for strikes, and his zone was packed, but he just didn’t have it.  It’s hard to explain the cause of a knuckleballer’s bad day because nobody really knows anything that goes on with a knuckleball, but there are days when he’s on and days when he’s off, and yesterday he was off.  He was set to throw the sixth, but Tito took him out before the inning started so everyone could salute him.  He definitely deserved that after what he’s been through this year.

Meanwhile, Lowell smacked a double off the Monster to bat in two runs in his very first at-bat of the game, which was obviously incredibly appropriate.  Lowell scored on Nava’s single in the third and hit a single of his own in the fifth in what would be his last Major League at-bat.  He finished his final game two for two with a double, a single, and a walk.  And I’m telling you, when he walked off that field, Major League Baseball lost a prince among men.

In the seventh, Anderson, who replaced Lowell, scored on a wild pitch.  In the eighth, Patterson scored on another wild pitch.  And at that point it was tied at five.  The bullpen had done an excellent job holding the fort.  Tito pretty much used everybody: Hill, Bowden, Richardson, Coello, Bard, and then Paps.  And that’s where it got ugly.

Paps took the loss by allowing an unearned run in the tenth, only because you can’t give a loss to a position player.  It wasn’t at all his fault.  It was Hall’s fault.  Paps had cornered Jeter into hitting a dribbler to the right of the mound.  When Paps went for it, it went past him.  No big deal.  That’s why you have infielders to cover you.  The problem was that Hall tried and failed miserably to barehand it.  He reached for it, and it just wasn’t there.  It looked like he was reaching for air.  Gardner scored, and that was the end of it.

But make no mistake; just desserts would be coming in the nightcap.  Dice-K had the ball, but it wasn’t his best night either.  He also only lasted five innings.  He gave up four runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits while walking five and striking out six with 104 pitches, only fifty-seven of which were strikes.  His two-seam and curveball were missing something.  His cutter, changeup, four-seam, and slider were good.  But his command wasn’t there, and he threw thirty pitches in the first inning alone, so you knew it was going to be a short, or should I say long, night for him.  He finishes the 2010 season, his fourth with us, nine and six with a 4.69 ERA in twenty-five starts.

Atchison allowed two more runs after that, and Okajima and Manuel pitched well, with Manuel getting the win.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All the regulars had the night off.  Anderson hit an RBI single in the first.  Lopez homered in the third.  Nava scored on Burnett’s fielding error in the fourth.  Kalish scored on Navarro’s sac fly in the sixth.  Nava hit an RBI single and Kalish scored on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth.  (It was Cash on eleven pitches for his first RBI since being reacquired on July 1.) And we were all tied up again at six.

At that point I’m thinking we need to win this one.  That’s all there is to it.  We just need to win.

In the bottom of the tenth, Hall clubbed a double off the Monster.  He moved to third on Cash’s sac bunt.  Then Patterson singled to center field with one out.  Hall scored.  It was a walkoff.  There was chasing and mobbing and general celebrating because we beat the Evil Empire and made it that much harder for them to win the division.  But more importantly, we won.  We won this one for ourselves.  And you know what? It felt good.

On the injury front, we have more of them.  Honestly, at this point it’s just rubbing salt in it.  Scutaro is out for the rest of the season, which at this point consists of one game and one game only, due to an inflamed right rotator cuff.  Buchholz is also out for the rest of the season with lower back stiffness.  Beltre has been out of the series completely, but that’s because he went home to California for the birth of his third child.  Congratulations to the Beltre family! Beltre, by the way, has a ten-million-dollar player option, but I would be extremely surprised if he exercises that.  He’s not going to.  He’s going to become a free agent.

So we split the day.  We worked a lot; the last time we played two extra-inning games on the same day was July 17, 1966 against the Kansas City Athletics.  There was no way we were going to spend eight hours and eighteen minutes playing baseball in one day and not win in the end.

Now we’re down to it.  The last game of the season.  This afternoon at 1:30PM.  Our last stand.  Our last chance to make an impression, go out with a bang, exit with dignity, and leave our mark on 2010.  Lackey’s got the ball.  Let’s finish this right.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Well.  That certainly did not go well.  That went quite badly.  Actually, that went horribly, terribly, and awfully.  It was just painful.

Josh Beckett was not on in the least.  In fact, he looked exactly like he looked before he went on the DL.  He only got through four and two-thirds innings.  In that time, he managed to give up seven runs on eleven hits.  He walked two and struck out six.  He threw 105 pitches, sixty-four of which were strikes.

He threw a phenomenal curveball and a phenomenal cutter.  Too bad most of his pitches were two-seams, which couldn’t find the strike zone.  Neither could his four-seam or his changeup.  He gave some indications in the first that it would be a long night, but naturally you chalk that up to having to settle into the game and find a rhythm.  In the second, when he threw twenty-nine pitches and gave up two runs, that justification started to disappear and you could just feel that Beckett didn’t have it.  By the way, the first of those two scored on Hall’s fielding error, when he let loose a rushed throw to first that was completely off-target with half his body still on the ground.  He atoned for it with a home run in the fifth, which at the time cut the deficit in half, but of course Beckett imploded further in the fifth, giving up five more runs before he was removed, the last of which scored on a throw by Cash to third that hit the runner in the helmet and sailed right into the outfield.  Beckett threw way too many balls over the plate, and the Yanks got their sweet spots on them.

It’s the pitcher’s job to keep the offense in the game.  We lost, 2-7, and it’s not inconceivable to think that if Beckett had pitched like we know he can and like we’ve seen in his past few starts, those two runs on our part would have been plenty.  But unfortunately it’s not the first time Beckett has lost to the Evil Empire this season; he’s currently 0-2 with an 11.17 ERA, which is a significant contrast to his career performance, which is nine and seven with a 6.23 ERA, excluding the 2003 World Series.

After Hall’s home run and Lowell’s RBI single in the seventh, Papi came up later that inning with two out and the bases loaded.  With two out and a full count, he grounded out.  That pretty much sums up the entire game right there.  We didn’t hit, and when we did hit and walk and create a scoring opportunity, we didn’t take advantage of it.  We collected seven hits on the night and left nine on base.

So this was the second time in a row that a win was gift-wrapped for us, and we didn’t open it.  Not only did the Rays lose, but AJ Burnett was scratched in favor of the Yanks’ fifth starter, and we still didn’t hit at all against him.  The door of opportunity was wide open, and we closed it ourselves.  Nevertheless, it’s still not the end of the world.  The Rays are in the middle of a losing streak, and the Yankees haven’t been playing that well.  If we can scrape together some sort of timely hot streak, the standings will do the rest.  To put us in position for that, we must beat the Yankees this afternoon.  We must, we must, we must.  This is the absolute perfect time for Lester to collect his first win since the All-Star break.  We really, really need this one.

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Last night was just bad.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.

Let’s start with Lackey.  After those first three starts after the break, I was convinced this one was going to be even better.  It certainly started out that way; Lackey fanned six of his first eleven batters.  But things quickly unraveled starting in the fourth, his worst inning for pitch count with twenty-six.  He had two outs with nobody on base, and the entire game just got away from him with a single, another single, and an RBI double.  Thankfully Kalish ended it with an excellent and pinpoint throw to the plate.

After that, Lackey was terrible.  He lacked almost everything a dominant pitcher should have.  He was inefficient; he threw 107 pitches during his five and one-third innings.  He was not effective; he gave up six runs on nine hits while walking five.  He was mediocre: his best pitches were his slider and cutter, while his curveball, changeup, and fastball left much to be desired.  He did get his fastball up to ninety-four miles per hour, and he did strike out seven, but that’s not really helpful after presenting your team with a deficit that large.  By the time he came out of the game, he had allowed three runs to score in the sixth while recording only one out.

The relief corps was excellent.  Delcarmen, Richardson, Wakefield, and Bard pitched the rest of the game.  While Lackey was busy taking the loss, the four relievers were busy showing the world why it wasn’t technically all that necessary for Theo to go all out at the deadline for another reliever.

So that’s one high point.  That was the only high point.

Papi scored on Beltre’s sac fly in the second.  That was it for us until the seventh inning.  Again with the missed opportunities.  Scutaro was gunned down at the plate.  We had runners at the corners with nobody out in the fifth and failed to do something with it.

And of course there was the third, when Youk left the game.  He had jammed his right thumb in the first while lining to short and tried to play through it but ultimately couldn’t.  V-Mart moved to first, Cash moved behind the plate, and Red Sox Nation moved their hands to their mouths in complete and total disbelief.  I mean, seriously? Is this for real? We had a ton of very significant injuries, we were just starting to get healthy again, and now this happens? And to make matters worse, Cameron is back on the DL with abdominal issues.  Technically we should be happy about that.  He’s been playing the past few months in pain.  Not days.  Not weeks.  Months.  Nobody knows his status for the rest of the season.  So we recalled Nava.  But all of this begs the question of Ellsbury, who’s played in four minor league games and in his most recent one made an extremely difficult jumping catch over the fence in classic Ellsbury style.  Nobody but Ellsbury knows what he’s feeling, but if Cameron can see Major League action for months with a muscle tear, and Youk can stay in the game until the pain becomes unbearable, and V-Mart can return to action the split-second he’s feeling fine, I would expect Ellsbury to return to action very soon if he’s making catches like that.  Of course, a rib issue is more serious than other issues, but we need him.  We really need him.

Then in the seventh, Beltre homered into the Monster seats on an offspeed.  And then I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we all had a comeback on our minds.  We were losing, we entered the last third of the ballgame, and given our performance in recent games, we had every reason to expect something to happen.  Something did happen, but not what we had in mind.  Nava pinch-hit for Patterson and hit a single, so Kalish was waved around.  Santana was waiting with the ball.  They collided; Kalish was out, and so was Santana with an injury.  But the hit was completely clean.  Kalish was pretty shaken by it, as a rookie is wont to be.  Also, that was a bad decision on Bogar’s part.  We have one out in the inning and we’re losing by four runs, and he sends the runner on that hit? Not a good idea at all.

Still, Beltre raised our hopes even further with two out in the eighth, with his three-run blast, also into the Monster seats, also on an offspeed: a hanging slider.

Then it’s a one-run game heading into the ninth.  It’s crazy.  And now we’re really thinking we’re going to do something here.  We’re going to lock this up.  We’re going to start the series off right.  We’re going to show this team who’s boss.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s going to be the third walkoff in a row.  Isn’t it?

No.

Kalish went three for three, Papi went two for four, and Scutaro went two for five.  But Beltre alone batted in all of our runs, scoring two of them himself.  He finished the night two for three.  For one night, Adrian Beltre played Yaz carrying the entire team on his shoulders.  And we all know what happened in 1967: we were almost there, but we lost to the Cards in seven games in the World Series.  Similarly, last night we were almost able to overtake the Indians, but in the end we couldn’t do it.

We’re six and a half games behind the Rays and the Yankees, who are now tied for first.  There’s really not much to say.  We need wins.  We need them in abundance.  And we need them now.  Seriously.  Every game from this point on is a must-win.  Beckett takes the hill tonight opposite David Huff.  It must start tonight.  We must win.  Tonight.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Simply put, if you thought Friday’s game reminded you of 2004, you didn’t see anything yet until you saw yesterday’s game.  In Friday’s game, we had the potentially winning grand slam but it wasn’t enough.  Yesterday, it was enough.  It wasn’t deep, but it was as dramatic as ever.  We won it in true 2004 fashion.

Dice-K’s performance was mediocre.  He pitched six innings, gave up four runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out five on 108 pitches.  His efficiency is clearly improving, but it’s easy to see that his hit total prevented him from staying in longer past a reasonable pitch count.  His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were actually thrown well.  He did not throw a single changeup for a strike, though.  His bad inning wasn’t actually so bad labor-wise; he threw only twenty-two pitches in the first, but he gave up a two-run shot in the process.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction.  It could have been worse.  He could have given up twice the runs in twice the pitches.  And we’ve seen him do that before.  So technically we should be thankful.  His strike zone was completely random.  He didn’t deliver any wild pitches, but he certainly made some pitches that were pretty wild.

Richardson and Atchison combined to pitch the seventh, when we got on the board.  Ryan Kalish, promoted as Hermida was designated for assignment, hit an RBI single and scored on McDoanld’s double.  Kalish would finish the night two for four.  And he started in left field without making an error, which is kind of a big deal.  (It was actually Beltre who made our error.  Unfortunately no surprise there.) That’s a great kid we’ve got here.  Looks kind of like Trot Nixon when he’s out there, actually.  The future in the outfield looks bright.  Anyway, those were part of a string of four straight hits.  So we cut the deficit in half.

Before the inning was over, Papi found himself at the plate with the bases loaded and two out.  He struck out.  Worst.  Foreshadowing.  Ever.

Atchison and Okajima continued to hold the Tigers at bay.  And now we come to the bottom of the ninth.  The grand finale.  I’m telling you, this will smack of 2004 like you wouldn’t believe.

McDonald led off the inning with an infield single.  Then Lowrie pinch-hit and stroked a double.  Then Youk was intentionally walked (after being hit by a pitch earlier; the irony continues).  So the bases were loaded, and Youk would be on the move no matter what because he was the winning run.

Then Big Papi stepped up, in all his Big Papi glory.  He took some pitches.  He even showed bunt.  Then he ripped a double into the hole in left-center field and emptied the bases.  We won, 5-4.  Just like that.  Sometimes one swing is all it takes.  As soon as I saw that ball reach the Monster, I knew Youk was coming home and we were going to win.  So the Tigers walked the winning run.  How ‘bout that.

And I was watching all of this and reminiscing like crazy.  After Friday night and yesterday, how can you not? Especially when you see Papi get mobbed.

They say that the more successful you are in the All-Star Home Run Derby, the worse your timing and average are afterwards.  David Ortiz has officially disproven this theory.  He finished the night two for five, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s batted .308 with twelve RBIs.  That’s his eighteenth walkoff hit, and it’s particularly impressive considering Coke is a southpaw and Papi’s average against southpaws coming into yesterday’s game was a mere .190 with one home run.  Particularly against Coke, Papi didn’t have even one hit to his credit in eight at-bats.  Well, he changed that in a hurry.  Coke’s fastball ended up away.  Papi was waiting for a fastball away.  That’s pretty much how it happens.

And I think the outcome of Friday’s game played a big part in our win yesterday because it shows you that you have no way to know which run will be the winning run.  You can’t afford to give up because you don’t know who’ll turn it around when.  So you just have to keep chipping away because something like yesterday might happen, and you’ll walk off with a win.  Literally.  It was epically awesome.

The trading deadline came and went yesterday.  Nothing earth-shattering happened, although we did go against the grain.  The theme of this year’s trading deadline was bullpen improvement for most teams, but Theo decided to go for catching improvement.  He traded Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for a minor leaguer.  It’s been fun, but he wasn’t as good as he’d been when he first arrived, and his impact has been minimal of late.  And we landed Saltalamacchia (that is spelled right – I triple-checked) from the Rangers for two prospects, a player to be named later, and cash considerations.  Salty will spend some time in the minors for now while Cash continues to play for Tek.

The market on the whole was loaded with starters and bats but skimpy on outfielders and relievers.  Figures.  We don’t need any of the former; we need the latter.  The problem of course is that our current status in the standings is deceiving.  We’re playing without key members of our lineup.  It wouldn’t make sense to make an earth-shattering move because we’re not really as bad as we look right now.  We don’t need another bat; we have bats.  They just happen to be on the disabled list at the moment.  It’s a tough position to be in.  But I think Theo ultimately made the right choice in standing pat.  Our performance with those bats present in the lineup before the break proves it.  In Theo we trust.  It’ll all work out.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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That was a very strange game.

Jon Lester is the absolute man.  He’s basically the best lefty in the game.  He’s totally an ace.  At twenty-six years old, he’s accomplished more than some people do in their entire lifetimes.  As a pitcher, he already has a no-hitter to his credit.  It only made sense that a perfect game would follow, with a Cy Young after that.

And he almost had one.  He was bidding very actively for a perfect game into the sixth inning.  I’ve watched him pitch countless times, but this without a doubt was the best I’ve ever seen him pitch, ever.  It would have to be if he were bidding for perfection.

He took the hill and proceeded to retire his first sixteen batters.  His cut fastball was absolutely nasty.  Nobody was going to hit that.  Nobody was going to hit his curveball or changeup either.  He was incredibly crafty and had hitters completely fooled; eleven of the strikes he threw were swinging.  He threw thirteen pitches in the first and eight in the fifth.  He concentrated on the bottom half of the zone, controlled his movement, and was literally just owning all the action.  If Lester didn’t want it to happen in the game, it seemed like it just wasn’t going to happen.

Eric Patterson changed everything.  With one out in the sixth, Wilson hit your average fly ball.  Patterson had a long way to go to make the play, but he was absolutely one hundred percent in position to make the play.  And for some unexplainable reason that I’m sure is completely inadequate, Patterson dropped it.  He just dropped it.  An elite pitcher had a perfect game on the line and he just dropped it.  And Wilson took second base.  We know from experience that if you’re a pitcher in the middle of making history like this and you don’t have good D behind you, chances are you won’t make it after all.  Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz can tell you all about that.  And Patterson ruined the whole thing completely.  Seriously.  The entire game went downhill after that one colossal snafu.  I don’t even think I can describe the fury I experienced with actual words.

So that ruled out perfection.  The no-hitter and the lead were both destroyed in the very next at-bat, when Saunders hit a hanging breaking ball out of the park.  That wasn’t a great pitch to call in that situation, so while it’s true that Lester didn’t locate the pitch well, Cash probably shouldn’t have called for it and Lester.  They had been feeding Saunders a steady diet of fastballs, so naturally he would have been lying in wait for something off-speed.

Suddenly we were…losing?

It would only get even worse.  Lester stayed in almost through the eighth inning, which was our final blow.  A sacrifice, a double, and a hit batsman scored three.  He issued his lone walk of the night in that inning as well.  We lost, 5-1, the one run courtesy of a homer by Papi in the fourth.  Delcarmen recorded the final out.

He gave up all of Seattle’s runs on four hits.  He walked one and striking out a whopping thirteen batters, a new career high and the most in a game by a Boston southpaw since Bruce Hurst K’ed fourteen Athletics on May 5, 1987.  He threw a grand total of 124 pitches, eighty of which were strikes.  That’s a ton.  Among Major League lefties, he’s sixth in ERA, third in innings pitched, tied for second in wins, second in WHIP, and first in strikeouts.  And he ended up with the loss.  I ask you: where is the justice? There is absolutely no justice in that whatsoever.  Eric Patterson should take the loss, but there is no way on this Earth that Jon Lester deserves a loss after a start like that.  Absolutely no way.  I can understand if a pitcher can’t quite eke out a perfect game.  I can understand if a pitcher gives up a hit at the last minute.  But I can’t understand how a pitcher nursing both bids can end up losing.

And it just goes to show you how valuable Pedroia, V-Mart, and Ellsbury really are.  The offense has not been performing well lately.  We’ve either squandered all of our opportunities or we haven’t even given ourselves opportunities to squander.  It’s terrible.  And last night’s contest highlights it in the extreme; we were down by four and couldn’t even muster five runs to earn the win for a pitcher who deserved it and more.  That’s bad.  That’s really bad.  Luckily, V-Mart could return as early as Monday, but still I’d rather be cautious and have him healthy for the long haul than bring him back early and have him fail down the stretch as a result.  On the bright side, we have a chance to win this series with Dice-K on the mound.  Hopefully he’ll continue his positive trend and earn a win if he pitches well.

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Not really what I had in mind when I pictured the start of the second half.  To be honest, I pictured some sort of decisive slugfest, something that would resemble the start we wanted to the first half but didn’t get.  Instead, we lost by five runs.

Wakefield allowed seven of those runs, only six of which were earned, on eight hits in the grand total of two innings for which he lasted.  Six in the first on nine hits – three straight hits scored the first run and then six straight hits, culminating in a home run into the Monster ended it – and one in the third without recording an out.  No walks, two K’s, and a loss.  This was his shortest start since giving up seven runs in one and two-thirds in September 2008, also against the Rangers, interestingly enough.  And he was efficient.  He managed to allow all that damage with just thirty-four pitches, about thirty of which were knuckleballs.  He threw twenty-four of them in the first inning alone.  His release point wasn’t a point at all; it was more like a line, and he’d release somewhere on this line.  His horizontal and vertical movement were both off the charts.  It was clear that he didn’t have his usual control over the knuckleball; he left a few of them up.  Usually batters like to swing at the first pitch without really seeing it well, they make some sort of contact and put something on the ground for an easy out.  But somehow last night, as they did in September 2008, the Rangers not only swung at the first pitch but kept on swinging and put some hits together and got something going.  That was really the problem.  Wake didn’t issue any free passes; the ball was in the zone, and to be honest with you when the game started but before all the runs started scoring, it looked like he’d have it locked.  But it was strictly the hits that got him in trouble.  It’s rare to see that be a problem when he gets aggressive with the strike zone.

By the way, I would just like to say that I agree with Tito completely: Young struck out.  That was not a foul tip.  And we know this because after Young swung, he ran, which is what you do when you swing through a ball in that situation.  If he really fouled it, he wouldn’t have started running.  So it wasn’t a foul tip.  It was a strikeout.  A strikeout that would’ve ended the inning before another five runs scored.  A strikeout that may have resulted in a victory of 2-1.  I’m just saying.

The final score was 7-2.  The natural deduction from that is that the offense didn’t have it, either.  And that deduction would be correct.  Drew went deep in the fourth completely into the first row of the Monster seats.  It was awesome.  Of his now eleven home runs on the year, he’s now hit ten off of righties.  He unleashed a world of power on that ball and sent it to the opposite field.  High inside fastball.  Perfect timing, beautiful swing, the works.  He’d finish the night two for four, the only multihit game in the lineup.  Then Nava bounced a single off Kinsler’s glove, Cameron got hit by a pitch, and it looked like we were going somewhere.  Naturally, Hall had to fly to center and Cash had to fly to right after that, and the rally died.  In a valiant attempt to redeem himself, Hall clubbed a homer of his own completely over the Monster in his next at-bat in the seventh.  It barely stayed fair.  Also an inside fastball.  Also perfect timing, a beautiful swing, the works.  Also the only event of that half of the inning.

That was Hall’s theme of the night: make a mistake and then make up for it.  He made an error in the third when he failed to handle Hamilton’s grounder, but then he made a fantastic diving catch in the fifth to rob Molina of a line drive.  He’s historically been most comfortable at third, but this was his first start there this year.  Beltre sat out as a precautionary measure.  He’ll likely start tonight.  By the way, Hall has now gone deep when starting the entire outfield and half the infield: second and third.

Speaking of diving catches, Cameron had a nice one in center in the first to rob Davis of a base hit.

Meanwhile, the bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings.  It’s almost like they were collectively the starter, and Wake was the rogue reliever who ruined everything.  How the tables have turned.  Manuel, Richardson, Atchison, and Ramirez.  Four hits, four walks, two K’s.  What an effort.  This was one of the better outings of the bullpen this year.  What a shame.

Neither the Yankees nor Tampa Bay played yesterday, so we extend our deficit by half a game.  Again, not what I had in mind.  At all.  In order to get a good taste in our mouths and start this second half off right, we must win tonight.  That means the offense will have to ramp it up and give Doubront some run support.  And Doubront will have to ramp it up and give us a quality start.  All possible.  We just need to execute.

But I’ll tell you about another let-down.  The Boston Globe posted a poll asking whether we’ll make the playoffs, and most voters said no.  That’s just terrible.  The Royal Rooters would be very displeased.  Not only are we Red Sox Nation and therefore must believe and keep the faith, but we also need to keep in mind that once the regulars return to the lineup, we’ll be able to inflict untold damage on the rest of the league.  We saw proof of that when we battled our way to within a game of first.  It’s possible.  We can do it.  We’ve seen it.  The second half just started only last night; let’s wait and see what happens when it really gets underway.

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